Saturday, March 8, 2008

Week 6: Winter Morning – Acrylic

The class on Monday will be our last class. If you want, you can bring in something for critique it could be something you have done at home, class, something you did years ago, something you like, something you had problems with, it doesn’t matter. Critique – not criticism – is a good way to improve your painting so I hope everyone brings in something.

We didn’t make as much progress on this as I would have hoped so many of you may have to finish this after the end of the semester; I hope that this blog will help you to finish your project. We are getting down to some of the details now and some of your final highlights I hope that I can finish enough at our last class that you will know what you need to do to finish yours.

The ruts on our road need some detail to make them look like they have depth. This was one of those rare times when I actually used a small round brush, a No. 4 sable. I loaded it up with our shadow color – blue and purple – then I applied it right along the top left edges of both ruts. However, and this is important to note, I did not make a solid line of this color, just dashes and dots mostly in the foreground and going back maybe ¾ of the way down the road. Your dashes and dots should follow the edge of your rut so they will not be straight lines, (see detailed photo) they will be more jagged. You will do the highlight much the same way using white with no other color added but you will apply this to the edges of both sides of the ruts again it is a series of jagged dashes and dots not a solid line more detail in the foreground, less as you go to the background. Soften the edges with your fingers so there are no hard lines, this is snow.

We also used our snow shadow color (blue, purple and white) to create the shadowed areas around the base of the trees on both sides of the road. This is a dry brush stroke so it is best to use a bristle brush and scrub it in to keep the edges soft.

Next we put bark on the aspen trees. If you have a flat or a bright sable brush, it will work better for you when putting on the bark, I used a No. 4 bright sable (a bright has shorter bristles than a flat and gives you a bit more control). Use a mixture of mostly white with maybe just a touch of yellow (this should only slightly warm up the white, yellow snow is bad J ) then loading the brush by dragging it thru your paint on both sides, start on the left edge of the tree trunk and lightly drag your brush across the trunk using a “U” stroke. Overlap your strokes as you go up the sides of your trees you don’t want a stripped tree, if the paint breaks when you do this, you have done it right, if it is too solid, you are using too much pressure on your stroke. Not to worry, we can put back in some of the dark patches in the trunks, but these initial breaks will add detail. You will do this on all the aspen trees on both sides of the road. On the shadowed side of the trees and a small touch of blue and purple to make a very light lavender color and using the same stroke only in reverse, do the shadows. If you have trouble “painting backwards” you might want to lay your canvas on its side or even upside down just remember to adjust your stroke to match that first stroke, i.e. sideways “U’s” or upside down “U’s”.

I hope by this time everyone has a script/liner/twiggy/rigger brush because we need to do the branches of our trees and while if yoe are careful you can do this with a regular small round brush, it will take longer and not give you the desired effect. Please practice with this little brush on another canvas or paper, it is a light touch but when perfected will do amazing things.

The biggest problem most students have with this brush is getting the paint thin enough. You will mix blue, purple and either sienna or burnt umber to make a very dark color and it should be very ink like so add enough water to get the right consistency then roll all the bristles of your brush around in this mixture and as you lift roll it so it makes a point. You will hold the tip of the brush slightly down and using a light, shaky stroke paint the branches of the aspen on the left side of the road. Aspen branches start pretty high up on their trunks so don’t start your branches too low. Some of the branches will go almost straight out, others will go up, some branches should overlap
And they will get smaller towards the tops of the trees.

The more pressure you apply to the brush, the thicker the branch so as you go out from the trunk. Lift and lighten the pressure on your brush. If you have loaded your brush correctly, you should be able to make several branches. Go our and look at tree branches if you have to, to see how they branch from the tree and how a branch will branch until it is just twigs.

The fence also got more highlights and shadows. The highlights were a mix of yellow, orange and sienna. The shadows were sienna and purple. If you need to add some dark back into your aspen trees add more blue and purple into the shadow color for the fence to make a very dark, almost, black color then dry brush some dark areas back into the trees. An alternative – and you won’t here me say this often – if you have black or Payne’s grey you can use it instead. Since you won’t be mixing the black with another color, it won’t dull what you are trying to do, though I do recommend that you learn to mix a dark color because it has more life than black.

Next week: Come ready to work! We have a lot to do to finish this up.

Special Project: Death Valley – Watercolor

If you didn’t read the start of the Acrylic info, remember that this Monday is our last classes for the semester so please bring in something for critique. This is the best way to improve your painting, getting an outside opinion helps you to know what the viewer sees or doesn’t see and will give you insight to your painting.

Since many of you decided to try the Death Valley scene, I will give you some basic instructions and will post pictures on the picture page to guide you along with the reference picture I used.

The first thing I did was to draw my design on my paper. The reason I did this is I needed to have a basic idea where the different colors of rocks were and where the tops of the ridges were so when I did the initial under painting I could set the stage as-it-were, for the final painting. An important part of this drawing was to include drawing the shadows as they are very important to making this project work.

Once I had my drawing, I really wet the paper well. I went over it several time with clear water so that the paper was saturated, I didn’t want parts of it to be drying while I was still working on it. I held it at an angle so that when I dripped paint on the paper, it would flow in a diagonal direction much the same way that the actual sediment of these hills looks in the photo.

I used, burnt sienna, raw sienna, cad yellow pale, cad orange and to make a darker color, the burnt sienna and purple. I streaked these colors on in a bit of a random manor, however, I was looking at my reference photo and tried to put colors that were similar in the corresponding areas of my painting. Don’t worry about the shadow areas at this point, only the sunny areas, remember we paint light to dark in watercolor.

If you notice in the reference photo along the top of some of the ridges there are some darker areas of sediment, this is where having a drawing on your paper comes in handy because I use a darker mix of sienna with a touch of purple in a few of these spots. Keep in mind that is under painting. You don’t want it to be too intense in color or you will have no place to go with the next steps so when you put the color down, use a clean brush with a bit of water to spread it out keeping it up and on a slant. When you have your under painting done, lay it flat to dry so you don’t loose the directional feel of the paint use a dry brush or paper towel to gently soak up any pools of paint that might accumulate. Let it dry.

The distant mountains behind the golden hills are painted with burnt sienna and purple. First I wet the area with just water (you may need to go back in and establish your drawing) then painted the color into the wet area (wet into wet painting) and while it was still wet, using a clean brush, lift out what would be ridges on the distant mountains, there is no detail, just suggestion here. I had gotten this area too dark when I painted it so while it was still damp I placed a paper towel over the whole area and lifted off some color and it worked out well. I let this dry completely.

Keep your reference photo close at hand because it will be very important in this next step.

Look at the ridges of these hills, where there are darker streaks of color you are going to put in these streaks, hopefully enhancing what you did in your under painting but this will create the top edges of each hill. I worked wet on dry remember to make your strokes diagonal to keep the sediment feel, start at the top of a ridge, paint the color down the side, rinse your brush and soften the outside edges of the color you just put down, the top of the ridge should have a hard edge. The photo will be your guide but do all of the ridges before you even think about the shadows. On the cliff on the right, just worry about getting the sediment stripes in not that it is in shadow or the dark erosion crevices that will come later as well.

Remember: These are only shapes of color! You get those shapes right and everything will fall into place. Don’t think or worry about anything else, just get the shapes of color where they belong and the picture will be there in the end.

After you get ALL the sediment streaks in and your painting has dried completely, then you can add shadows. Check your photo and your drawing and be sure you know where your shadows are going to go, re-draw the shadow areas if you need to because they can get confusing.

Mix a medium light mixture of blue and purple, this is your basic shadow color for most everything. Paint in your shadows in sections so you can take a clean damp brush and soften the outside edges of your shadows before they dry. You can have a hard edge where the shadow and the top of a ridge meet, but where the shadow is cast on the side of a hill use your brush to soften the edge. Do your shadows in as few strokes as you can so you don’t disrupt the under laying layer of paint, to do this use as big a brush as you can. Let it dry.

When it is dry, using almost the same shadow mix, go in between the hills (bottom of one, top of the other) and darken the area at the bottom of the hill. Using a clean damp brush, blend it up into the existing shadow. It is always a bit darker between objects even if they are themselves in shadow, plus this helps separate the hills. If you need to go over some of the shadows to make them darker, feel free, but do this gradually so you don’t over do it and keep the outside edges soft.

The very dark crevices in the cliffs on the right are made with a stronger mix of blue, purple and either sienna or burnt umber if you have it. After you paint each crevice, rinse your brush and soften the outside edge but leave a hard edge next to the rock formation.

Don’t over think this and you should have good success. Take your time, let things dry in between applications of paint and stop when you feel like you are fiddling. The worst thing you can do to a painting is to keep touching it until it no longer had a fresh feel to it. Walk away and let it sit for a few hours or days before thinking about touching it, you will probably find that it looks great just the way it is.

Good luck and bring things in for critique.

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